Exogenous ketones are a very new and exciting health food supplement that offers numerous health benefits to those who use them regularly. They’ve only been on the market since 2014, but ketones themselves have been studied extensively throughout the last several decades.
Ketones are made in the liver from stored fat cells, providing us with energy in times when the body doesn’t have available glucose or “glycogen” to burn. Examples include when you’re pushing the body hard physically and burn off all your stored sugar energy (glycogen/blood glucose), or during times of famine when food is scarce.
Exogenous ketones are exactly the same as ketones as far as the body is concerned. “Exogenous” simply means that the ketones are derived from sources outside the body, whereas ketones manufactured by the liver from fat stores are referred to as “endogenous” ketones.
The Human Body Isn’t Meant to Run on Sugar All the Time
Ketones are now recognized by science as the preferred energy source for both the brain and heart, while our biological power-source inside the body, the mitochondria, also thrive when fueled by ketone bodies instead of glucose.
Mitochondria are the sole driving force behind aging in the body, as they help kill aged and/or malformed cells (eg., cancer), form new healthy cells, and in general help keep the body vital and full of energy. Several studies where exogenous ketones have been administered show boundless improvements in athletic performance, cancer treatment, Alzheimer’s, dementia, inflammatory diseases, and genetic disorders of all kinds.
Exogenous ketones aren’t to be compared with the hyped-up raspberry ketones that are so popular for weight loss these days. Raspberry ketones are somewhat similar on a molecular level, but are nothing more than the phenolic compound in raspberries and a few others that give them their unique berry smell.
How Exogenous Ketones Work in the Body
There’s a lot of complicated science surrounding the description of ketones and how they’re processed by the body. Most people know the body uses sugar to energize every cell. Unfortunately, excess sugar causes a whole host of problems including diabetes, fatigue, confusion, hypertension, high cholesterol, raised triglycerides, and adrenal fatigue.
Most people get way too much sugar in their diet…
When ingested, ketones become an immediate energy source for the brain, heart, and mitochondria, and can help reverse many of the health problems caused by excess dietary sugar. Essentially, when sugar is absent from the diet, we go into a survival state called “ketosis” whereby the liver automatically switches to manufacturing ketones from stored fat to be used as energy.
Exogenous ketones trick the body into thinking we’re in a starvation state, shutting down glucose production in the liver and forcing the cells to run off the ingested ketones as fuel. While one might think this is an inherently bad thing, but ketones are in fact the preferred source of fuel for the human body for use in manufacturing adenosine triphosphate or “ATP” as it’s often called which fuels every cell in the human body.
In fact, the brain is the only part of the body that needs some glucose to carry on daily tasks. This is because prior to the last century and a half, the human race didn’t always have a cupboard or refrigerator full of food to access whenever hunger pangs start. Most who use exogenous ketones say their brain and body are “turned on” after consuming them.
Physically, users claim to have much more long-term endurance and explosiveness when using ketones as the preferred fuel source, while those taking them for brain benefits are shocked by how much clearer their thoughts are and how much easier ideas come to them.
A side note for athletes and those who work demanding manual labor jobs: You don’t need to remove sugar completely, or at all from the diet, to derive benefits from consuming exogenous ketones. Muscles still use glycogen when in ketosis if it’s available, and giving the cells of your body different energy sources to choose from isn’t a bad thing if you tolerate carbohydrates well.
Types of Ketones Explained
The liver is responsible for manufacturing most of the ketones needed when one shifts into a state of ketosis, thought the brain is able to manufacture small amounts of ketones via astrocytes to assist neuron function. In total, there are 3 different kinds of ketones made in the body:
2. Acetoacetic Acid
3. Beta Hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
Most supplements use BHB mixed with sodium or calcium, to improve absorption. There are very few companies that offer these supplements at all, and many will offer the same or similar formulations. Fortunately, exogenous ketones are expensive to manufacture, and so the quality of the BHB and other ketones used is rarely an issue when choosing one brand over the other.
Benefits of Using Exogenous Ketones
Glucose (carbs) were once much harder to find prior to civilizations forming. Nomadic man and early farming communities didn’t have ready access to sugar cane plants, or fruits and root vegetables. And these early plants had far less fructose per serving than their modern genetically-modified counterparts.
Adding exogenous ketones to the mix raises blood ketone levels, giving every cell in your body access to slow-burning energy that lasts longer and is more efficiently burned than glucose.
Reduced Oxygen Needs
In healthy people, glycogen (stored glucose), is used up fairly quickly. This process is ten-fold during moderate and intense exercise. When this happens, oxygen needs to be diverted from the cardiovascular system in order to process stored bodyfat and convert it to blood ketones.
When you consume exogenous ketones, they’re digested immediately, and quickly converted to ATP for energy by the Krebs cycle.
Better Diabetes Control
Once exogenous ketones are consumed, blood sugar levels can drop radically. While this could spell trouble for a type 1 diabetic or insulin dependent type II, it can be a godsend for those dealing with early or mid-stage type II seeking to normalize blood sugars and prevent future complications.
Most of the documented studies out there have focused on animals to date, but renowned researchers and biohackers like Dr. Dom D’Agostino, and many others have found this effect to be equally true in human beings.
Improved Mental Abilities
As mentioned earlier, the brain quite simply thrives on ketones as a primary source of energy, though it does need approximately 15 – 20 grams of glucose per day to complete its necessary functions.
To add weight to this fact, aside from the liver, the brain is the only organ that’s able to manufacture ketones via neuronal cells called “astrocytes”. By flooding the blood with the energy the brain wants and needs, it doesn’t have to spend energy producing it on its own. Improvements in mental cognition is one of the most common benefits people taking exogenous ketones notice soon after taking them.
Several studies have been performed over the years detailing the outstanding anti-inflammatory benefits fasting has on subjects. This study out of Yale showed that beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) blocks a nasty and destructive inflammatory gene marker called NLRP3.
Adding orally-administered BHB to subjects quickly led to improvements in those suffering from a slew of inflammatory diseases including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, and auto-inflammatory disease. The anti-inflammatory benefits of ketones can be gleaned from fasting alone, but inflammation quickly returns when an overly high carbohydrate diet is resumed unless you’re taking exogenous ketones to trick the body.
Consuming exogenous ketones can have the same effect on NLRP3 that endogenous ketones made in the liver do during fasting periods – meaning you don’t need to fast in order to get this benefit.
Appetite Suppression and Potential Weight Loss
True hunger pangs resulting from a need for more energy and nutrition happen automatically when blood sugar levels become too low in the body.
Low blood sugar happens after we exercise for extended periods (30 minutes or longer), when one has gone too long without food, and even shortly after consuming large amounts of sugar – which causes what’s known as an “insulin dump” where the blood is flooded with insulin in an effort to store all the excess glucose.
Exogenous ketones flood the bloodstream with ketones, dropping blood sugar, replacing it with readily available the body can use, thus suppressing the appetite while negating the lethargic effects people often feel when restricting calories. For the most part, excess ketones are excreted through the urine rather than being stored as fat, though more research is needed to confirm this.
Potential Side Effects of Exogenous Ketones
If you have ever fasted for an extended period, you probably already know that people tend to urinate more when high levels of ketones are present. That’s because the kidneys are constantly working to keep ketone levels in the blood at optimal levels.
While this process isn’t hard on the kidneys themselves, the more you urinate, the more electrolytes are robbed from the body. This doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s recommended to consume an electrolyte supplement if you start to experience any side effects.
People with diabetes controlled by medication must note that blood sugar levels have been shown to drop quite markedly when taking exogenous ketones.
This is far from a bad thing when compared to the condition most diabetics have been warned about called “ketoacidosis.” Ketoacidosis happens when the body becomes so insulin resistant (unable to store or use glucose for energy) the liver starts dumping massive amounts of endogenous ketones into the blood stream in an attempt to fuel the body
Ketoacidosis is a very deadly condition that affects insulin-dependent type 1 and II diabetics. If you are insulin dependent, exogenous ketones should only be administered under supervised conditions, if at all.
Digestive Upset (aka “Disaster Pants”)
Like many supplements, some people experience digestive upset after they first start supplementing with exogenous ketones. This problem typically fades after a few days of use, and normally only bothers people who take more than the prescribed dose. Start off slow and only take half of what’s recommended until you can assess your own tolerance.
Potential Emetic for Some People
This isn’t as much of a problem now that manufacturers have been able to make their exogenous ketone supplements more palatable. Vomiting is possible in some people, but is easily avoidable by following the dosing instructions on the label of whatever supplement you choose and/or starting off at lower doses to assess how you’ll handle them.
Tips for Selecting Quality Exogenous Ketones
There isn’t much one needs to look for when selecting the best quality exogenous ketone supplement for their needs. In general a dose of around 11 – 14 grams of BHB is the recommended upper dose per serving, though obviously doses can be split in half with excellent results.
It’s worth noting that some manufacturers will use numerous ingredients in an attempt to make their products more palatable, but currently it’s widely accepted that exogenous ketones aren’t pleasant tasting and there’s very little that can be done to make them better. In fact, these supplements may not improve much more than they have already due to their molecular composition.
Choose your supplements like you’d choose your food. For example, if you’re avoiding gluten, look to make sure the product is made in a “gluten-free” facility. If you have a nut allergy, ensure the product is made in a “nut-free” facility. Read the reviews, research the company, and compare price tags.
For the most part, prices are very similar across the board, but if you get the chance to save $10 or $20, there’s almost zero chance you’re sacrificing on the quality you’ll get.
Recommended Brands to Try
KetoSports KetoCaNa Dietary Supplement (View on Amazon)
This exogenous ketone supplement from KetoSports comes in Natural Orange or Strawberry Lemonade flavors. It’s regularly regarded as the most natural way to consume exogenous ketones. It’s flavored with stevia and only has a few other natural ingredients.
If you’re looking for a way to get started, KetoCaNa is one of the best bangs-for-buck on the market when considering the reviews and quality ratings. Each serving delivers over 11.3 grams of BHB, with 16 servings per container.
Perfect Keto Base, Exogenous Ketone Supplement (View on Amazon)
Perfect Keto Base has some interesting flavors too, with their Peaches and Cream and Chocolate Sea Salt offerings. The ingredients in this one are also all natural, but don’t expect it to taste like a peach cobbler or chocolate pie, you won’t get that from any ketone supplement on the market.
Each serving delivers 11.3 grams of BHB, and there are 17 full servings which can be split in half to give you a month’s worth of exogenous ketones.
Nutricost 4-in-1 Exogenous Ketone Supplement (View on Amazon)
Nutricost comes to you with one of the newest exogenous ketone supplements to hit the market. The fact that there is no flavoring is a drawback for some users, but considering none of the products out there are going to blow you away and taste like a glass of your favorite fruit juice or milkshake, it’s worth it to save a few bucks and just mix it with your own low carb drink of choice.
The ingredients are all natural and give a whopping 13 grams of BHB per serving, with approximately 15 servings per container. Considering there are more grams of BHB per serving a little math can help stretch even more servings out of this product.
InstaKetones Exogenous Ketones (View on Amazon)
InstaKetones make a number of different health food products, including an entire line of this powered exogenous ketones, and Protein Bars with exogenous ketones. In this powdered product, Orange Burst flavor is the only one offered, but you can get it with or without caffeine included, which is optimal for taking your ketones in place of a morning coffee or before a workout.
Each scoop contains 11.7 grams of exogenous ketones. This one has a few more ingredients, albeit natural ones, presumably in an effort to make it more palatable – though again, this product isn’t likely to taste better than any of the others!
Consuming exogenous ketones in place of all carbohydrates including sugar will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. Although science has yet to make a formulation that tastes super great, exogenous ketones have come a long way just in the last two years.
The numerous benefits mentioned on this page have a lot of science backing their efficacy, and those who prefer to follow a strictly keto or paleo diet, or who like to regularly fast in order to restore balance in the body, will love the mental and physical energy this magic supplement can offer.